I’m skipping ahead a bit to part of my first year in graduate school, which took place during the September 11th year.
Tuesday, September 11, 2001
I started my day and went to the University like any other day. I spent much time at the University and I went there to do some computer work for a workshop submission. I had a G3 tower at home, but the new G4’s were somewhat more powerful and there were laser printers at the faculty technology center. Since I worked for Joe, he wrote a letter to the center to give me access. I often abused my priveleges, and this morning was no exception.
I used the scanners and Photoshop to get my images at the right resolution, plunked them into a Microsoft Word file, and formatted the text around them. The G4’s RAM certainly could handle it. My beige G3 at home was a bit slower, and it would take me forever to do them. Plus, there were all the other people at my mother’s house to deal with – my brother, my mother, and sometimes her friends. There was also the temptation of the television – something I had to escape in order to get things done. Once I had the TV turned on, anything I hoped to get done was over.
Since I did not watch TV that morning or listened to the radio, I had no idea what had happened. I heard no mention of it on the bus on the way to the University. A television was set up on a table in the faculty technology center, but I paid no attention to it. Somehow, it didn’t strike me as strange that a TV was on in that room. After logging in, I sat down at a computer and began working. As I sought to get the right fit of an image on a page, I heard comments about a terrorist strike on the US and that these terrorists would not be coddled. I soon inferred that the strike occured in New York City. Even with the news broadcasting, everyone in the lab worked on their projects, even while they were listening. It was not until there was an announcement from Governor Gray Davis that everyone stopped. He announced that all California state institutions would be closed immediately.
The center’s administrator got everyone to leave at that moment. I took the elevator up to where the English Department was. I don’t know why I did this. Perhaps I hoped to see one of my new grad school friends to talk about what’s going on. I saw that some professors had not been notified and they were still carrying on, teaching their classes or sitting in their offices. I couldn’t find anyone, so I went to the campus bus station to go home,
There were many people waiting to take the bus. The buses arriving to or leaving campus were rarely full, but they were packed this day. I saw Malcom, the administrative assistant for the English Department, and chatted with him. I told him I knew this day would go down in infamy, like Pearl Harbor. I’m sure many other people were thinking the same thing. We waited for a crowded bus, boarded one, and left the campus.
My friend Liza Radley, whose birthday I would later learn was September 11, was aboard. She really hadn’t made an impression on me yet. What I remember of her was different from the Liza I would later come to know, the outgoing, intense, and gregarious girl with many friends. She was still new to the city and quiet. But we shared a bus trip together on that day, when the everyone in this city and even the rest of the nation was sudddenly confused.
Malcolm and Liza would get off in one of the first stops away from campus, while I took the bus to uptown. I just had to eat. I found a Greek diner on 5th Avenue and set my tote down. I ate a gyros plate while the restaurant’s TV relayed more details of the news. Now I had a better idea of what happened. The World Trade Center had imploded because two airplanes crashed into the towers. Another plane crashed into the Pentagon, and another crashed in a remote field in Pennsylvania, though the intended target was speculated to be the White House. The nation’s borders were closed off, and no plane would cross the sky, coming or going, for the next few days. I found it disquieting that “Attack on America” had a logo, whipped up in a few hours. After lunch, I went to a cafe and had some coffee, where I heard more of the same news. I then took the bus back to my suburban neighborhood.
My mother was home along with Yoko. Yoko’s family, her ex-husband and her daughter, were also visiting. I think we may have sat down for a late afternoon meal, but I don’t remember for sure. I do remember every channel on the TV was broadcasting updated news of the attacks on the World Trade Center. My mother had planned a birthday party for my niece that day, but cancelled it a few days before and rescheduled it. My niece shared a birhday with Liza Radley.
I could not not take the news for long all day, so I went into my room and logged onto the Internet. I alternated between working on my personal website, going on websites, and e-mailing friends to make sure they were okay and replying to e-mails asking about me.
When I was in the sixth grade, I saw a documentary about Nostradamus entitled The Man Who Saw Tomorrow. The great Orson Welles was definitely memorable as the narrator. It was not a ground breaking accomplishment such as his War of the Worlds broadcast or Citizen Kane, but his presence was appropriate. Most of the film covered Nostradamus’s prophecies during his lifetime and what he wrote about the future. Historical events were brought side by side with his prophecies, so it seemed plausible that he predicted the rise of Adolph Hitler, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution in Iran. Then the documentary discussed the near future. Here, dramatized footage of a man in a blue turban walked around a military computer command center of an unidentified Middle-Eastern nation and ordered a missile to be launched at New York City. It had yet to happen, but terrorists from Arab nations were beginning to gain prominence in the media.
I went on the Nostradamus newsgroup and the board was filled with posts about September 11. Many simply discussed what was going on, while others wondered if this was the prophecy come true.
Whether the prophecy was true or not wasn’t important. However, I knew my life wouldn’t be the same afterwards. No one’s life would be, though waving flags would prove to be a wonderful distraction for a while.